There’s an old proverb that says, “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” And this is never truer than when undertaking a project in the bioeconomy, where harnessing the strengths and abilities of others in different corners of our ecosystem is one of the most strategic ways that projects can scale their innovation and solve complex challenges.
We are privileged to cover many great projects on our pages, and in this issue are proud to shine a light on a particularly fascinating and important one, VALUEMAG, that has developed a new solution based on the use of magnets for microalgae cultivation and harvesting that produces and purifies high-value biomolecules in both a cost effective and sustainable manner. By delivering this solution, the path opens for significantly more efficient microalgae-based bio-refinery systems across a variety of industries.
VALUEMAG is working within the framework of Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking (BBI-JU) funding, operating under Horizon2020. The consortium that has been working on this project is truly pan-European, with National Technical University of Athens NTUA (Greece) and Theracell (Greece / UK), Università Vanvitelli and ENEA – Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (Italy), NomaSico (Cyprus), Institute of Physics, Slovak Academy of Science (Slovakia), Iris – advanced Engineering (Spain), EXERGY (United Kingdom), Vertech Group (France) and Ecoduna (Austria).
An important solution to the twin environmental problems.
Filoklis Pileidis of PNO Innovation (pictured left) who have led the dissemination, communication and exploitation of the project, gives us a further introduction to VALUEMAG, “It’s a privilege to be a part of a project that can offer such an important solution to the twin environmental problems of global warming and pollution plus the global problems of fuel supply. The team here have supported this revolutionary technology with analyses of an economic and environmental consequences, stakeholder analysis and communication and dissemination strategies to help build a microalgae industry network.”
At the heart of the VALUEMAG ( @Value_Mag ) project is the development of an advanced magnetic method for micro-algae cultivation and to utilise this knowledge to produce micro-algae for food, cosmetic and nutraceutical use at minimum possible cost. Algal cells contain all kinds of useful substances, but are hard to be harvested, and this is where the use of magnets is so important.
Dr. Angelo Ferraro of the NTUA and a scientific coordinator tells us about their technology: “The problem with the current industrial process of extracting valuable compound is that about 60% of the remaining biomass will not be useable for anything else. So it is an inefficient process.
And this is where the VALUEMAG method comes in. We use magnetic nanoparticles and a soft magnetic metal cone to cultivate microalgae. In a second step specifically modified magnetic nanoparticles are essentially for ‘catching’ compounds (natural colouring molecules, anti-oxidant, proteins etc) we want. Chemicals are required are minimised thanks to the use of supercritical CO2 extraction, making the extracts safe to eat or use in cosmetics.”
Nick Stefanakis of NTUA and also part of the coordination team tells us some more about the progress of the project: “We launched on 1st April 2017 and are now coming to the end of the project. The research institutional and private partners have addressed many challenges through the development process, among them the construction from a scratch of a cultivation chamber hosting the magnetic photobioreactor and the setting up new systems for microalgae de-watering and water recycling. Now as we come to the end, our pilot magnetic Photo-BioReactor (mPBR) have been tested in Cyprus, ahead of our partner NOMASICO taking the project work onto its next stage and commerciality.
Through the project development, we’ve also developed tools and methods that can be used in other applications, like for example, a new extraction method named Selective Magnetic Separation (SMS), which, as mentioned, allows to selectively catch organic and inorganic molecules. Both the SMS method and the separator prototype machine designed and constructed in VALUEMAG framework are now part of proposals that aims to remove from waste water highly dangerous pollutants such as heavy metals, or for the extraction of enzymes from vegetal by-products.
A second VALUEMAG outcome that is now further developed is the antimicrobial effect (biopestiside) of Dunaliella Salina extracts. ENEA team demonstrated an amazing protective action of Dunaliella biomass on vegetables like tomato and zucchini, and two new proposals have been presented to further develop this effect.”
The VALUEMAG project has identified several added-value products from microalgae biomass that the process offers, including the opportunity for food production and an extraction of commercially-valuable products such as nutraceuticals and cosmetics. Among them one of the most potent anti-oxidant named Astaxanthin, Omega-3 fatty acid like EPA and other carotenoids such as Lutein. These compounds have both nutraceutical application and cosmetic.
In addition to cultivating algae with minimum cost, the new integrated production system from VALUEMAG increases efficiency and improves environmental sustainability. The process requires less water and less energy than other technologies and will be able to deliver zero greenhouse gas emissions or even reduce current CO2 atmospheric concentration thanks to photosynthetic metabolism of microalgae. As if this wasn’t enough, the wider proliferation of microalgae-based bio-refineries offers the opportunity of new job creation and investment in rural and marine areas of Europe in need of economic revitalisation.
The interdisciplinary approach from the 11 partners that make up the VALUEMAG project have delivered an impressive project that makes the large scale, cost effective harnessing of biomass from micro-algae a reality and in turn opens up opportunities for products within aquaculture, food additive industry, bio-fertilisation, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry.
For more information, contact Professor Evangelo Hristofou (email@example.com)
This feature originally appeared in Issue #17 of the Bio Market Insights Quarterly.
PNO is the largest European consulting firm specialised in Innovation Management and Funding consultancy, based on profound insight in research and innovation strategies, up-to-date knowledge and nearly 35 years of experience with more than 500 funding programmes in most EU countries, annually raising more than 1 billion euro for its 2000+ clients.
PNO ( @PNOconsultants ) is made up of a pool of more than 400 professionals including scientists, engineers, consultants, a Brussels policy advisory service, as well as financial, legal and IT experts, with consolidated experience in innovation processes and funding in international working environments. PNO brings together the Innovation Specialists from the 8 PNO Countries, including The Netherlands (HQ), Belgium, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Spain, Italy (brand name CiaoTech) and Israel.
Connecting industries, research and public organisations, including sectorial and technology platforms, PNO has fostered the creation and dynamics of more than 10 pan-European innovation communities ranging from raw materials to the circular and bio-economy, health, transport, energy, open source software, photonics, water and many more.
PNO is an important long-term stakeholder within the European bioeconomy panorama, acting as a partner in multiple EU-funded projects, have performed several commercial assignments as well as (co-) developed communities, platform and innovation road maps in this sector.
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Download: Bio Market Insights Quarterly #17